Making Students More Effective Learners by Challenging their Misconceptions about Learning Stephen L. Chew Samford University [email protected] New American Colleges & Universities Westminster College June 22, 2012 Goals of the Presentation 1) Discuss the level of college readiness of incoming freshmen 2) Discuss what students need to know about how people learn and the development of a program to help students become more effective learners based on cognitive principles a) Correct misconceptions about learning b) Provide a cognitive framework for effective study 3) Discuss what faculty should know about how people learn and what they can do to help students learn more effectively 4) Discuss cognitive basis of effective pedagogy Teacher Beliefs about How People Learn • Teaching requires a mental model of how people learn. – Most teachers cannot articulate their model of learning, but they have one. • Determines which teaching methods are selected, how they are implemented and assessed, and how to adjust if there are problems. • If the model is accurate, the teacher will be effective • If it is flawed or simplistic, the teacher will be less effective Student Beliefs about How People Learn • Students also base their study behavior based on their models of how people (specifically themselves) learn. • Determines whether or not they go to class, if and how well complete assignments, how they study material, and when material is mastered. • The better the model, the better the student learns • If the model is flawed or simplistic, it will undermine student learning A typical incoming college student… • Has graduated from high school with an average GPA of 3.00 (NAEP, 2009) • Has probably passed a high school exit or graduation exam • Has been tested for scholastic achievement or aptitude many times • Probably taken an entrance exam and was admitted to college % of Students Deemed Ready for College by ACT (2011) 70% 66% 60% 52% 50% 45% % 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 30% 25% A typical college freshman is • Inadequately prepared for college work • Unaware of the fact because it is contrary to their successful high school experience • Likely overconfident in their preparation and abilities for college-level work – Few students enter college believing they will struggle As a consequence • Many students will struggle academically in their first year of college – Culture of access vs. culture of completion • Overconfidence may hinder their recognition and willingness to try to make the necessary changes • Even when willing to change, they do not know what changes to make (or not make) • Some percentage of these students will not succeed in college even though they have the ability to do so – A larger percentage will perform poorly as they adjust to college level study The Primary Goal of Teaching Either • To present information that students are solely responsible for learning – In which case student adjustment to college level work is not the teacher’s problem – The teacher cannot or should not influence learning Or • To develop a sophisticated, useful, and generative level of understanding of various academic topics on the part of the students – In which case student adjustment to college level work is the teacher’s problem – Teachers share responsibility for student learning How to help students make a successful transition to college • Remediation • Teach them to adjust through college transition courses, advising, study skills centers, and other resources – Personal and social adjustment; study “tips”, and time management • Teach them how to be more effective learners by correcting misconceptions and teaching them cognitive principles of learning Evolution of a Presentation • Given many workshops for teachers on how to teach effectively using cognitive research on how people learn • In 2006, I was asked to give a presentation to Samford’s entire freshman class on how to study effectively in college based on cognitive research • Focus on what students need to know about how people learn in order to make them better learners It’s not that simple • Student expect to be lectured to about how hard college is going to be and how hard they will have to work. • Student overconfidence • “I’m a college professor and you better study hard because college is tough!” – “Look to your left…” • “I’m a scary, old guy who will make you work hard for no apparent reason.” – Such a lecture would be useless The Challenges • Overcome the negative preconceptions – “I want you to succeed, and I have information that will help you meet the academic challenge.” • Overcome student misconceptions about learning, e.g. mistaken beliefs and “magic bullets” • Present cognitive principles and research to help students become more effective learners • Make the presentation engaging, accessible, and memorable • Do it in 45 minutes Goals of the Presentation • Give students a coherent, research-based framework that would allow them to become effective learners in any situation – More than disconnected study tips, e.g. don’t cram at the last minute; space out learning; serial position; study in same place you will be tested • Show them how to apply the framework to their study • Make it obvious to students this was useful information they should care about – It is worth the investment of time How to Study Long and Hard and Still Fail… Or How to Get the Most Out of Your Studying I. Beliefs about Learning that Make You Stupid (common misconceptions) II. Metacognition and its consequences III. So how accurate are your beliefs about how people learn? (A quiz) IV. A demonstration of Levels of Processing V. Operationalizing Levels of Processing VI. Applying Levels to studying, note taking, and highlighting and reading Giving the Presentation (about 5 weeks into Fall Semester) Beliefs about Learning that Make You Stupid • Learning is fast • Being good at a subject is a matter of inborn talent rather than hard work, • Knowledge is composed of isolated facts • I’m really good at multi-tasking, especially during class or studying Metacognition • A student’s awareness of his or her level of understanding of a topic • Metacognition distinguishes between stronger and weaker students • One of the major tasks for a freshman is developing good metacognition – In high school, students spent years developing a metacognitive sense that is likely inadequate or even counterproductive for college. Relationship between Estimated and Actual Grades: Psyc 101 The irony of poor metacognition • Students who have the poorest metacognition have no clue how weak their understanding of a concept is. • Part of being incompetent is not understanding just how incompetent you are. • So the students who most need to listen closely to this talk, are the ones who don’t believe they need to. So how accurate are your beliefs about how people learn? Which of the following is the MOST important ingredient for successful learning? 1. The intention and desire to learn 2. Paying close attention to the material as you study 3. Learning in a way that matches your personal Learning Style? 4. The time you spend studying 5. What you think about while studying Read the instructions for the demonstration to yourselves and do your best to follow them. Levels of Processing • Shallow processing focuses on spelling, appearance and sound. – Rote memorization of facts – Flashcards with isolated facts • Deep processing focuses on subjective meaning. – Relating new information to prior knowledge or other information – Making information personally meaningful Rate each word • Do you find the word Pleasant? Deep processing: You are relating the words to your own meaningful experiences. • Does the word contain an E or G? Shallow processing: You are focusing on spelling. These are orienting tasks that cause you to think in deep or shallow ways, regardless of your intention Four different conditions Be forewarned you will be asked to recall all the words Front Left Shallow Warned about Recall Shallow Not Warned Right Deep Warned about Recall Deep Not Warned Study Conditions 1. If motivation to learn matters, the front tables should recall best 3. If both deep processing and motivation matter, the front right should recall best Front Left Shallow Warned about Recall Shallow Not Warned Right Deep Warned about Recall Deep Not Warned 2. If deep processing matters, The two right sections should recall best Intention vs. Level of Processing Intentional Incidental 80 69 70 68 67 60 % Recall 50 43 40 39 30 20 10 0 Shallow: E Checking Deep: Pleasantness Level of Processing Control Which of the following is the MOST important ingredient for successful learning? 1. The intention and desire to learn 2. Paying close attention to the material as you study 3. Learning in a way that matches your personal Learning Style? 4. The time you spend studying 5. What you think about while studying Implications for Learning • Intention and motivation to learn are not important • Attention and amount of study is necessary, but not sufficient for learning • Learning strategy has a huge impact on learning – Shallow processing undermines learning, even when intention and motivation are high • Deep level of processing is critical for learning – elaborative, distinctive, personal, appropriate Implications for Students • Many students have highly practiced poor learning strategies – Studying more won’t help them – Increase overconfidence without learning • They need to unlearn highly practiced old strategies and develop new, more effective ones • Consider study skills in terms of orienting tasks and level or processing • Studying, note taking, reading, writing, listening These findings are strongly counterintuitive • All study is effective, only amount and intensity matter – The more I study, the more I learn • The more motivated I am to learn, the more I will learn – Motivation automatically improves study effectiveness • Not all study is the same; some is useless no matter how long you do it and some is counterproductive • Motivation is no guarantee of effective study skills • Learning is hard work, but not all hard work leads to learning Implications for Faculty • Pedagogy have a significant impact on learning – It isn’t all the same • Consider pedagogy in terms of orienting tasks and level of processing – Design assignments, problem sets, questions, examples to induce deep processing – What does this activity make students think about? – A badly designed assignment isn’t just useless, it can undermine learning Achieving Deep Processing while Studying As you study, follow these principles: • Elaboration: How does this concept relate to other concepts? • Distinctiveness: How is this concept different from other concepts? • Personal: How can I relate this information to my personal experience? • Appropriate to Retrieval and Application: How am I expected to use or apply this concept? • These properties lead to development of connected understanding The aftermath • The presentation was a huge success – Rated most useful and interesting of freshman activities – Faculty liked it as well as students – I’ve presented it annually, refining it each year • After two years, I was asked to give a follow up presentation for “at risk” students • But just how successful was it? – 2009 Assessment Method The assessment employed a two pronged approach: • Study 1 involved three sections of Foundations, a course intended to help freshmen adjust to college – For these sections, I attended their class, gave a pretest, gave my presentation, gave an immediate posttest, then gave a follow-up survey two weeks later. • Study 2 involved other Foundations sections. – I asked instructors to give a pretest before the presentation, the students attended my presentation, then I gave a follow-up survey several weeks after the presentation. Results • Students rated the presentation highly for interest and value in helping them study (Figure 1) • In both studies, the presentation had a significant impact on student understanding that the key factor in learning is deep processing (Figures 2 & 3) – But 43% of students maintained a misconception and correct understanding lowered slightly over time. • The presentation seemed particularly effective in reducing rote memorization as a study strategy and increasing deep processing. (Figure 4) – “As I study, my main strategy is to memorize the key facts and the definitions of key terms.” (F(1, 61)=12.49, p=.001) – “As I study, I try to think about how I might use this information either on an exam or in my future experience.” (F(1, 67)=4.43, p=0.039 Fig. 1: Presentation Assessment (Study 2) 7 6 Mean Rating 5 4 3 2 1 0 Fig. 2: Rated Most Important (Study 1) 100 Before After Follow-up 93 87 80 60 % 46 40 20 20 20 10 2 4 0 Desire 0 0 Attention 2 4 Learning Style 5 2 4 Time Deep Processing Fig 3: Rated Most Important (Study 2) Before After 60 57 54 50 40 % 30 24 19 20 15 10 10 6 8 6 1 0 Desire Attention Learning Style Time Deep Processing Fig. 4: Impact on Study Strategies Before After 7 6 5.46 5.06 Mean Rating 5 4 4.57 3.84 3 2 1 0 Memorize Deep Processing Study Strategy Conclusions • The presentation is interesting and effective at significantly altering student understanding of learning and their practice. • The presentation is particularly effective at decreasing rote memorization and increasing deep processing strategies • A significant portion of students still maintain misconceptions about learning and the positive impact may lessen with time. • To address these issues, I created videotaped modules of the presentation for students to review when needed. Development of Video Series • Have the same helpful tone as presentation • Contain the same information as my two presentations • Serve as a resource for students and teachers on how to study effectively • Be as flexible as possible for different uses, such as online learning – Five brief modules • Be worth the time invested in terms of information learned – 6-8 minutes each Creating the Videos • I examined the videos on studying that already exist – Most are either testimonials or selling products – A depressing, often boring, mix of some correct information, misconceptions, and simple tips • Nathan Troost—Ace Videographer – Visual sense of what works and what is interesting – A psych minor and former student of mine – A good editor for me • All five filmed in four hours one summer morning Video Series: How to Get the Most Out of Studying http://www.samford.edu/how-to-study/ How to Get the Most Out of Studying • Video 1: Beliefs That Make You Fail…Or Succeed • Video 2: What Students Should Understand About How People Learn • Video 3: Cognitive Principles for Optimizing Learning • Video 4: Putting the Principles for Optimizing Learning into Practice • Video 5: I Blew the Exam, Now What? Videos posted in August, 2011 • Very well received: In use by many faculty; posted as a resource by many study and counseling centers; used in many college transition courses • Now being closed captioned • Faculty love them; Advanced students wish they had had them as freshmen; but freshmen reaction is mixed – It isn’t what they want or expect to hear – Misconceptions are hard to change – Just watching them is probably not sufficient Viewing Pattern Unique Views by Video 140000 130069 120000 # Views 100000 80000 55730 60000 43507 36670 40000 32968 20000 0 Video 1 Video 2 Video 3 Video Video 4 Video 5 What might explain this pattern? • When we tell students to watch them, we mean “Watch them all (maybe more than once), learn from them, work to incorporate the information into your study habits.” • What students think: – “I watched the first one and I figured that was enough.” – “Just watching should be enough to improve my grades. • Watching videos is passive, and they should be entertaining – “I already know or do this stuff.” (When they really don’t) What Students Want vs. What the Videos Offer • How to make good grades • A concrete, foolproof, (easy) method • Simple tweaks to what I’m already doing • Immediate results • A guarantee that hard work will result in a good grade • How to learn more effectively • A framework for effective study • A radical change requiring much effort • No magic bullet • You can work hard and still fail Using the videos effectively • Just assigning them is good, but especially for weaker students, need to ensure watching and engagement • Need to scaffold content – Huge discrepancy between video content and student beliefs – Information dense – Ideas are counterintuitive and contrary to popular misconceptions discuss how to apply. – Need reminding • It is a resource that will save teacher time, but will not replace the teacher. Some suggestions • Assign one at a time and discuss in class • Use study questions, assignments, or formative assessments to ensure deep processing • Revisit them after the first exam • Use as a resource in working with struggling students • I’m open to suggestions So shouldn’t we design pedagogies that make students use deep processing all the time? (What faculty need to know about learning) What are the critical factors in student learning? • Engagement • Active learning • Struggle – Many faculty believe student struggle leads to better learning Cognitive Load Theory (e.g. van Merrienboer & Sweller, 2005) • Mental effort is the amount of concentration that a person has available to devote to tasks • Mental effort is always a limited resource • Cognitive Load is the total amount of mental effort a task requires to complete it • A person can do multiple tasks at once as long as the total cognitive load does not exceed available mental effort • If cognitive load exceeds available mental effort, then performance suffers Student mental effort must meet the demands of instructional mental load Cognitive Load Extraneous Load (Minimize) Teachers design instruction Germane Load (Optimize) Intrinsic Load (Manage) Tasks and concepts possess difficulty Students possess prior knowledge, learning strategies and mental effort Available Mental Effort Name the days of the week out loud and in order as fast as you can About this Activity • Were you engaged? • Were you engaged in active problem solving? • Were you working hard and struggling? • What was the 4th day in the list? Name the Days of the Week as Quickly as You Can In Alphabetical Order • Friday • Monday • Saturday • Sunday • Thursday • Tuesday • Wednesday Implications of Cognitive Load Theory • If the cognitive load demanded of students exceeds their available mental effort, then learning will not occur • If the cognitive load demanded of students takes up most or all of available cognitive effort, then there will not be enough mental effort available for learning or schema formation • Deeper level of processing causes greater cognitive load • Teachers must monitor, manage and minimize cognitive load to allow schema development as well as design activities to promote schema development Cognitive Load of Various Tasks (adapted from Piolat, Olive & Kellogg, 2004) Planning Revising Translating Composing a text Task.. Notetaking from a lecture Playing Chess (experts) Playing Chess (novices) Reading a text Reading sentences Intentional learning Incidental learning Text Copying 0 100 200 300 Cognitive effort (IRT in ms.) 400 About Engagement, Active Learning, and Struggle • Engagement, being “active”, and mental struggle do not always lead to effective learning • Neither does deep processing if cognitive load is too great • Teachers must balance deep processing and cognitive load • Teaching is an interaction of competing forces The Complexity of Teaching • The number of teaching methods is large and diverse • No teaching method is without limitations and pitfalls • Teaching is a contextual interaction; Teaching effectiveness involves the dynamic interaction of multiple factors: • the outcomes that are desired by • the characteristics of the students by • the characteristics of the instructor by • the curriculum and content • No single best way to teach An Effective Teacher • Must monitor, manage, and manipulate multiple, conflicting factors, many of which are outside the teacher’s control, to achieve desired learning outcomes • Must be knowledgeable about multiple teaching methods, select appropriately among them to achieve desired goals, and make adjustments during teaching. Teaching As a Contextual Outcome of Multiple Agents (TACOMA) Model Characteristics of the Teacher In-the-Moment Reflection Pre-event Reflection Topic, Content, and Manipulate Teaching Strategies Student-Teacher Rapport and Classroom Atmosphere Monitor, Learning Goals Manage, Manipulate Learning Strategies Monitor Characteristics of the Learner Level of Student Understanding Manipulate Form of Assessment Post-event Reflection Take Home Message • Described misconceptions that students and faculty have that undermine their learning • Described a live and video presentation for making students more effective learners based on cognitive research • Attempted to give you a more sophisticated understanding of how people learn to improve teaching effectiveness – Levels of Processing and orienting tasks – Cognitive Load – Must keep them in balance • Teaching is a complex interaction of factors that the teacher must manipulate, manage, and monitor – No single best teaching method – Requires constant monitoring and adjustments Final Thought • Whether F2F or online, learning only occurs in one place, inside the student’s head. • It takes effective pedagogy for that to take place • Effective pedagogy depends on cognitive principles. Thank You! Questions? Stephen L. Chew [email protected] Discussion Questions 1. What steps does your college or university currently take to make students better learners? What changes could be made to improve this process? 2. What kinds of misconceptions about learning do you see in both students and faculty? How do they undermine learning and how can they be addressed and corrected? 3. How can faculty use the information presented about depth of processing and cognitive load to design pedagogy that makes it easier for students to learn and retain information? For Further Reading • How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, Marie K. Norman (2010). Jossey-Bass. • The College Fear Factor: How Students and Professors Misunderstand One Another. Rebecca D. Cox (2011), Harvard University Press. • Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load. Ruth C. Clark, Frank Nguyen, John Sweller (2005). Pfeiffer. • Effective College and University Teaching: Strategies and Tactics for the New Professoriate. William F. Buskist, Victor A. Benassi (2011). Sage Publications, Inc • What the Best College Teachers Do. Ken Bain (2004). Harvard University Press.